Monday, January 29, 2007

Magnificently bonkers

Just nearing the end of Charlie Connelly's Attention All Shipping which Sarah got me for Christmas. It's a travel book about the author's voyages to all the areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. He is a funny man indeed. My favourite bit is about the Urquhart family, a bunch of 17th century eccentrics who hailed from Cromarty in Northern Scotland. It goes like this:

...the most famous residents of the castle had been the Urquharts, several of whom were magnificently bonkers. One early Urquhart, for example, lived for several years convinced he was actually dead. Every night his bed would be wheeled into the courtyard and winched up to battlement level by a series of pullies so that it might be easier for his maker to come and spirit him away in the night. Despite this apparent foolproof method of contraception – I can't imagine Mrs Urquhart was too enamoured of her husband's morbid alfresco nights – he and his wife reputedly produced thirty-six children, the poor woman. The best-known Urquhart, however, was Thomas, who lived in the mid seventeenth century. Thomas was the first man to translate Rabelais into English and indeed did it 'more Rabelais than Rabelais himself' according to Bernard Levin. He was also a total fruitcake. Among other things, Thomas claimed to have traced his family tree right back to Adam and Eve. Although his Rabelais translations remain in high regard, his other writings were so eccentric as to be practically impenetrable. Making up words on the spot didn't help. 'Amblygonosphericalls', 'extrinsecall', 'grediftal', bagrediffiu', 'pubkegdaxesh' and 'obliquangular', for example, all appeared in the space of one paragraph in his book Trissoetras, and none was ever heard of again. Flushed with etymological creativity he tried to start up his own language in his 1653 book Logopandecteision. It didn't catch on. Thomas, knighted by Charles I in 1641 – although no one seems to know why – was present at the Battle of Worcester and fled to Holland after the English Civil War, where he is reputed to have died laughing on hearing of the restoration of Charles II.

Charlie Connelly, Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast
(Abacus, London: 2004), pp58-9

1 comment:

The Finnishman in London said...

Interesting... it is strange how the wings of history can carry you. I just learned aboug being somehow distantly being related to this paperfamily

Sure as hell, have studied both the chemistry of paper and writing on it, withouth knowing about this until recently.

Funny! Some way to go till "Paper Industry International Hall of Fame " though still ...

I hope i am not ashaming my roots by working for websites ... :-o>